Archive for June, 2011

Speaking gig round-up

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I’ve been on the road quite a bit lately doing readings and talks. As I’ve noted before in this space, I truly enjoy getting out and meeting readers, talking about my novels and sharing my rather unexpected publishing journey. My dance card continues to be filled nearly to capacity. It seems that as one gig is done, another is put in the calendar. No complaints on my end.  So here’s a quick rundown of the last week:

Thurday, June 23rd, Creemore, Ontario

What a great time I had in Creemore speaking to a group of 100 or so. It’s a lovely, picturesque, and arty little town. Michele and Jennifer from the Clearview Public Library met me at an amazing restaurant called Chez Michel. We had a great dinner and then headed over to the Station on the Green. The kind folks from Curiosity House Books were on hand to sell The Best Laid Plans and The High Road. I gave my talk and then the audience fired some very thoughtful questions my way. Then I signed books for a while and got back on the road for the drive home. My thanks to the Clearview Public Library for inviting me to come. I had a great time.

Saturday, June 25th, Bayfield Writers’ Festival, Bayfield Ontario

I had a blast this past Saturday in the beautiful town of Bayfield, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron. In the afternoon, I read at the Bayfield Writers’ Festival in the Town Hall alongside some wonderful writers. The event was organized by Mary Brown of the lovely Village Bookshop. Joining me were Anne Perdue, author of the short story collection with the very provocative name, I’m a Registered Nurse, Not a Whore, Emma Ruby-Sachs, author of The Water Man’s Daughter, Sarita Mandanna, author of Tiger Hills, and an excellent local children’s poet, Hilary Gillespie. After the reading, we all had dinner together. One of the many benefits of participating in readings is the opportunity to meet other writers. These were all very nice folks whom I hope to see again on the circuit. Here’s the Town Hall just before we headed up to the stage.

And here’s a shot of the poster promoting the festival that Mary asked us all to sign for the store.

The next morning, I worked on novel #3 before enjoying a wonderful brunch in the Brentwood on the Beach B&B. At the appointed hour, I spoke to 50 or so attendees about my writing and answered questions. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and hope to make a return visit sometime.

Monday, June 27, McMaster Engineering Alumni event, Toronto

Last night, I spoke at a McMaster Engineering Alumni gathering in Toronto. I have an engineering degree from McMaster even though I’ve never worked professionally as an engineer. My university experience had a considerable impact on the course of my life so I was very happy to be there. I gave a talk about how my engineering education shaped my writing, a topic I haven’t spoken on before. It seemed to go reasonably well (nobody nodded off or walked out in the middle) and I had a great time meeting some newly-minted engineers and some old friends as well.

It’s certainly been a busy few months, and last week was no exception. There are many more speaking gigs coming up. It’s a good thing I enjoy it. Hope to see you at one of them…

Self-indulgent screen grab for posterity’s sake

Friday, June 17th, 2011

I think of my blog partly as a digital scrapbook of this wild and wonderful writing  journey I’ve been on since finishing the manuscript for The Best Laid Plans back in 2005. So when I come across news items that help to put my experience into some kind of context or perspective, I’ll post it on my blog so I’ll have a record of it. This is one such time, so bear with me.

My literary agent, Beverley Slopen, discovered via Quill & Quire a week or so ago that for the first time, both The Best Laid Plans and The High Road made it onto BookNet‘s extended Canadian Fiction Bestseller’s list. I never dreamed this might happen so I’ve captured it here for posterity in case it never happens again!

Trevor Cole picks up his Leacock Medal

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

I drove to Orillia yesterday afternoon in what has become a June ritual for me. It was my fourth consecutive Stephen Leacock Gala dinner at which the Leacock Medal is presented for the funniest book published in the previous year. This year, Trevor Cole won for his darkly comic novel, Practical Jean. I snapped the photo above with my BlackBerry last night just as Trevor was given the medal by the President of the Leacock Association, Mike Hill. I’ll never forget the evening in June of 2008 when I gratefully received mine. It was gratifying that The High Road, my second novel, was a finalist for this year’s Leacock, but I really was very happy for Trevor’s win. His novels are wonderful and have been nominated for many of Canada’s top literary awards. And now he has a well-deserved Leacock Medal.

I was honoured to have been asked to give the toast to Stephen Leacock last night, a staple of the annual gala. Wanting to do something a little different than just preparing a garden variety toast, I decided to write mine in the form of a mercifully short poem. I borrowed the rhyming scheme Robert Service employed to much better effect in his masterpiece, The Cremation of Sam McGee. Here’s what I wrote and managed to recite last night:

A Toast to Stephen Leacock

We gather here but once a year
Wearing our Sunday best
For a grateful look at a humorous book
That was funnier than the rest
But we honour the man, where it all began
On the shores of Brewery Bay
You made us laugh back then, again and again
And we’re all still laughing today
So please raise a glass, and get off your… chair
For our dear but departed host
You split our sides, with words so wise
To Stephen Leacock… a toast

I’ll be back in Orillia next year and every year thereafter if they’ll have me. The Leacock Medal changed my life as a writer. It’s an important literary honour in this country and I’m honoured to be connected with it.

A great tour through the west…

Friday, June 10th, 2011

I’ve been remiss in not posting for a week or so but I’ve been a bit under the gun at the office and writing novel #3. But a couple of weeks ago I headed west to Vancouver and then on to Whistler for a reading at a fundraiser in support of the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival. What a magical place. My hosts, the Vicious Circle writers group, are wonderful, friendly, and very committed writers. I toured the village on Sunday and marveled at the mountains and the sunshine. I spent some time in my hotel room making very welcome progress on a client writing project that was hanging over me. The reading that night in the Milennium Place Theatre in the village was great. I was outfitted with a lavalier lapel mic so I could wander the stage during my talk, which is always preferable to being anchored at a podium. The audience was very kind and laughed in all the right places during the reading part of my talk. I signed a whack of books at the intermission and then returned to the stage for a sit-down interview style encounter a la Inside the Actor’s Studio. It was a fun evening.

I was up very early the next morning for the bus ride back to the Vancouver airport where I caught a flight to Calgary. After checking into my hotel, I jumped in a cab and made it on time to a meeting of the book club that had “won” a visit from me in the CBC Canada Reads Book Club contest. I’ve never met a book club I haven’t liked and this was no exception. What an interesting and thoughtful group of women they were (and I’m sure still are).  There was wonderful food surpassed only by the conversation. I always learn something about my own novels when I spend time with readers. I made it back to my hotel and crawled into bed after midnight. It was a memorble evening.

Then it was up in the morning to catch my flight back to Toronto. Despite being wiped from my western swing, I closed out Tuesday by playing my regular ball hockey game. (I couldn’t let down the team – not that my presence or absence affects the game too much!)

Here are a couple of pics I snapped with my iPad, one from the bus to Whistler and one from the plane. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which. Now back to working on novel #3…